Friday, October 19, 2012

“A Descendent President Obama”

Sydney M. Williams

Thought of the Day
“A Descendent President Obama”
October 19, 2012

It’s okay not to vote to re-elect President Obama. In 2008, I found Mr. Obama’s associations – with those like the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Michael Pflegler, Frank Marshall Davis, Bill Ayers, Professor Derrick Bell – too radical for my tastes. However, I could understand why so many did vote for the charismatic, articulate Illinois Senator. His beautifully delivered, thrilling messages of change were inspiring. The country, in the fall of 2008, was depressed. It was deeply mired in a financial crisis that had been years in the brewing and had bubbled over with the collapse of Lehman Brothers on September 15th. A recession had begun the previous December. Unemployment was rising and the country was just beginning to extricate itself from an unpopular war in Iraq. After the election, the country gave the new President almost universal backing. It had elected its first African-American President. On November 5th, I wrote: “At this moment, America should feel proud.” Following his inauguration, I added: “Expectations are high; the current economic situation requires bold action and provides the opportunity for a long-remembered success. We all hope he succeeds.” We all did. But he hasn’t.

Candidate Obama had made me wary. He was a man who had stood before 100,000 adoring fans at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, proclaiming to be able to halt the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet. Millions had fallen for the seductive tones of his speeches, listening as much to the cadence, as to the words. People heard what they wanted to believe. Mr. Obama’s speech, “A More Perfect Union,” on March 18, 2008 was a superb example of his speaking prowess, yet it was typical of all his speeches. It served to deflect, not explain, his twenty-year association with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Nevertheless, the soaring words of that speech in Philadelphia did a lot to secure his nomination five months later.

As a candidate, Mr. Obama had promised change. He would fix the financial crisis and get the economy working. He would bring unemployment down to 5.4%, by the end of his first term. He would restore America’s reputation that had been sullied by wars in Muslim countries. He would fight global warming and bring affordable healthcare to the millions who are without, and do so at lower costs. He would champion renewable energy. He would unite a divided people. And, best of all, to the coastal elites, he was an African-American with an Ivy League pedigree.

A fawning Press and a Nobel Peace Prize, awarded him not for what he had done but for what they hoped he would do, helped further an illusion of Barack Obama. The truth is that that illusion is as faux as the faux columns before which he stood when he accepted his Party’s nomination in 2008. What is real about the man is his desire to increase the reach of government, and thereby his own power; it is to redistribute income, thus increasing dependency and devaluing the individual. Mr. Obama sought to achieve his goals by demonizing the wealthy and thereby further dividing an already divided country.

Early in his first term, in advancing his social programs, Mr. Obama ignored the needs of an economy still struggling. Having little understanding as to how economies work and wealth is created, he pushed through a stimulus bill that did more to ensure public union workers kept their jobs than to lift the economy. He signed a massive healthcare bill and a financial reform act that collectively comprise more than 5000 pages and added hundreds of new regulations. He surrounded himself with those whose philosophies were similar to his own, people like Valerie Jarrett, his senior White House advisor and “Van” Jones, who was Mr. Obama’s Senior Advisor for green jobs – people with dubious past political affiliations. As business advisors, he listened to crony capitalists, rather than small businessmen and women who are the engines of economic growth and the creators of jobs. In “saving” GM, he violated basic principles of contract law by placing the demands of unsecured creditors (unions) ahead of secured creditors (bond holders.) He left in place banks that were too big to fail, and has contentedly watched as they have become even bigger.

Mr. Obama is a man who becomes incensed when he feels that some (the one percent) are not playing by the same rules as the 99%. Yet he has no trouble rewriting the rules when it suits his own purposes. A case in point is the furor over the Libyan terrorist attack on September 11th. I detailed the timeline in a piece entitled “Bumps on the Road” earlier this week. Suffice it to say that after last Tuesday’s debate the Obama campaign has changed strategy. Mr. Obama now claims he called the attack a terrorist attack on September 12th, which is as much of a definitional stretch as was Mr. Clinton’s when he tried to define the word “is.” The world knows that thirteen days later, on September 25 when addressing the U.N., Mr. Obama made five references to the YouTube video and did not once utter the word “terrorist” or “terror.” In the interim, the White House and the State Department had been doing all they could to spin the story of the attack, so that responsibility fell on the YouTube video.

On Sunday, September 16, Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. was sent out to five TV talk shows. She attends these shows at the instruction of the White House. Her message was that the video, not terrorists, was responsible for the death and violence in Libya. Jay Carney, White House press secretary repeated the same line over the next several days. The reality, I am sure we will discover, is that the truth was inconvenient to the refrain Mr. Obama constantly repeated as he campaigned: “Osama bin Laden is dead and al Qaeda is in retreat.” Others have stepped into bin Laden’s shoes, and al Qaeda is surging. At the debate, instead of coming clean, Mr. Obama dug a little deeper and got a little dirtier, as he tried to place the blame on a nonplussed Mitt Romney. It was a shameful and deceitful tactic by a falsely indignant Mr. Obama, who was aided by an extraordinarily partisan Candy Crowley. The timeline and the unconscionable lack of security deserve further investigation. Fortunately for the President, but not for the truth, any official investigation will be conducted after the election.

A great irony of Mr. Obama is that under his watch, the middle class, the poor and the elderly have suffered significantly more than the wealthy. The Fed’s monetary policies, which Mr. Obama appears to endorse, have kept interest rates low, thereby giving a boost to commodities, bonds and stocks. And, low interest rates (along with exorbitant deficits) have caused the dollar to depreciate – a not-so-subtle, regressive tax. Since Mr. Obama took office, the Dollar has declined 7%, which is startling as the U.S. is usually considered the least risky place to invest. Incredibly, given the severity of Europe’s problems, the Dollar has declined versus the Euro thus far in 2012. The poor have been helped modestly with expanded unemployment benefits. But the fact that the growth in disability roles has been double the growth in new jobs, and the addition of 17 million to food stamp roles, attest to the paucity of the President’s efforts for the very people he purports to help. And, of course, very few have suffered as much as the elderly who have always relied on their savings to augment their Social Security. While low interest rates are a boon to borrowers, they are a bane to savers.

Last week, the New York Observer, not a paper known for its conservative leanings, officially endorsed Mr. Romney, noting the country is experiencing a crisis of leadership. Four years ago they endorsed Mr. Obama. In this week’s editorial they wrote: “His election four years ago truly was a milestone and, rightly, a cause for celebration.” They have become disenchanted, however, with Mr. Obama’s lack of progress on the economy and his demonization of the wealthy. The editorial added: “In fact, it is Mr. Obama who has lost sight of the fact that American capitalism is the greatest anti-poverty program in human history.” In contrast, they note that Mr. Romney has shown “that he is moderate to his core – he is a manager and a listener…”

Most importantly, Mr. Obama’s policies regarding the economy are not working. He has neither defended his record, nor offered any prescription for the next four years. His entire campaign is about bashing Mr. Romney. We are amidst the slowest recovery in the post-War period. Unemployment, when one adds back those who have given up looking for work and those wanting to work full-time but only able to find part-time work, amounts to more than 23 million people, or over 14% of the workforce. GDP growth in 2012 has been less than it was in 2011, which in turn was lower than 2010. Median incomes for middle income workers have fallen in the past four years, while debt and deficits are at record highs. It is not a pretty picture.

The decision on November 6th should not be difficult. Ideology and charisma should give way to common sense, clothed in human decency. It is certainly okay not to re-elect the President.

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